Memory Connections: A World of Joy and Wonder

29 Jun

The idea of being “from” somewhere is as familiar as breathing, but we come from more than places—we are from the sum of our experiences, from the homes we lived in, the media and culture we’re immersed in, world events, the people we meet, the sunrises and sunsets we observe, and the trees and flowers we walk among. We carry images and words from great artists and interpret their meanings in ways that resonate with who we are at our deepest cores. These writers in our Memory Connections workshop—in telling their own stories, making up stories and poems based on paintings by Monet or Hopper, and recollecting those aspects of the world that fill them with joy and wonder—reveal deep feelings of gratitude for the world we live in, the one they come from, and those they imagine.

Tracey Lander-Garrett
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

I Am From


I am from St. Louis, Missouri—baseball was the sport. My mother—who lived in Memphis, Tennessee, (200 miles from St. Louis)—watched the games on TV. The St. Louis Cardinals dominated the towns north and south of St. Louis. Baseball season is the longest of most sports, with spring training beginning March 1st and the World Series ending in October. Baseball was in our lives two-thirds of the year. Only late in the year and early the next—four months—were we without baseball.

The game is probably the most difficult to play. It requires catching, throwing, batting, running. On every pitch, the player must anticipate and respond. It’s thinking, anticipation, and reacting to the always-fluid and changing movements of the baseball as it’s thrown and hit. Even the sound of the baseball being hit by the bat gives some important information to be processed by your vision and hearing to determine how far the baseball will fly.

Edward Shelby

What a Day

—Inspired by Claude Monet’s painting “Entretat Rough Sea”


What a day, the ocean is wild.
The fishermen are trying to decide
if they can take their boats out to sea.
They watch the ocean water hit hard
against the high rock walls. They look
through the open space in the rocks.
They see only the same waves
that are in front of them.
They look at their boats. They see
that they are old. They question
if the sails can be put in place.
Again, they have concern about whether
they will be safe if they take the boats
into the dangerous waters.
They decide not to put the boats
into the water. Better to be safe
than sorry.

Jerry Miller

El Paso (The Pass)


Where I grew up, we did not have trees or grass, other than what was planted in people’s yards. But the sunsets over the mountains are always beautiful. I miss those sunsets. They are like rainbows—always a lot of color and shades. There is so much in the rocky mountains that run through El Paso (The Pass). They are large and majestic. When the sun sets, it’s a wonderful sight—the blending of colors: red, purple, yellow on a bright blue sky—one of my favorite sights.

Pat Joyce

The Black Trains

—Inspired by Claude Monet’s painting “The Gare Saint-Lazare: Arrival of a Train”


I see the black trains coming and going.
I can see people working and going places.
There is a lot of steam from one of the trains.
There are a few trees on the left. It seems
fairly arid where the trains are.
The train track in the middle seems to snake out.
Two lanterns hang down from the trees on the left side.
I wish I were going on a train ride at this moment in time.
This train also seems to have two yellow lights in front.
One sits slightly above the other.

Heather de Loyo

I Grew Up


I grew up in Sherman, Texas. I was born in Sherman and had sisters older and younger. My oldest sister would go to the Canteen with her friends to entertain the soldiers. My mother and dad let my sister and her friend bring several of the soldiers to our house to dance and eat.

Mother let us watch their dancing, and some of the soldiers would pick me and my sisters up and dance with us. That’s when I learned to dance. I have loved dance ever since.

As I grew older, I always remembered how much fun the boys had with us. So many of them later went overseas. We never saw them again.

At the time, I didn’t realize what they were there for. And as I got older, I remember all those boys fighting in the war. I know some didn’t come home.

Mary Russell

Spectacular Sunsets

Down By the River

If I were to pick a season that brought spectacular sunsets, it would be fall—along the coastal area of Southern California. The east winds, which lasted three to five days, blew in from the desert regions, hot and dry. The humidity was near zero—claiming victims of dust and pollen. But then came sunset: the most beautiful slow-motion picture. You gazed across the channel, some twenty miles away where the island of Santa Cruz lay. It is there where the sun dips into the ocean, causing the island to turn a deep purple-blue silhouette against the sky. That sky becomes a backdrop of brilliant yellow-orange—then, with time, as the sun sinks further down, it fades into pastels. So the blue of the sky fades into dusk, then night: out come the evening stars. And in turn, as the sky darkens to a deep blue, all the stars and some planets make their evening vigil—making each evening breathtaking, awe-inspiring.

Helen Haynes

The Great Artist


I am touched by the sunrise and the sunset
at the beginning and end of the day.
The colors are brilliant and the clouds
are magnificent. There is an artistry
that can only be seen as divine, transcendent.
I imagine myself in the Space Station,
overwhelmed by the beauty that seems endless.
A multicolored sky: red, blue, white—
clouds are endless, and appear
to be painted by the Great Artist in the sky.
I love walking through fields of flowers:
bluebonnets, daisies, roses.
Skies, horizon, greens of the trees.
There is a freshness
in the late spring in this part of Texas,
birds singing in the evening.
I recall the words of E.E. Cummings:

i thank you God for this most amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes

Paul Visokay

Stars on an Autumn Evening


I enjoy the autumn season of the year. It gives me a feeling of completion of the hot, muggy summer being replaced with cooler, dryer air. Living in Central Texas, we love the change in colors of Spanish oak trees and the falling of leaves in preparation for winter. I actually enjoy raking oak leaves in the fall. I feel autumn is the season to enjoy bounty and success.

Liking astronomy, the dryer air and lower humidity make the season much more amenable to using telescopes to look at planets close to our sun. I enjoy looking at the sky on a clear evening and picking out our sister planets that are part of the Milky Way. Remembering their distance from our sun is Challenge #1. Remembering their distance from earth is Challenge #2. I also enjoy looking for other solar systems beyond the Milky Way and guessing at their distances from Earth.

Manny Chavez

Tilling the Soil

—Inspired by Edward Hopper’s painting “Pennsylvania Coal Town”


Tilling the soil
preparing the flower bed
on the side yard
The man works
to add some beauty
to his yard
His hands tightly grip
the tools of his labor

Arthur Mike McMahon


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